Angry New Yorker

Friday, March 01, 2024

The NYC Department of Transportation has a long history of failure on the ground in the past two decades, but none will prove to be more damaging to NYC than the Rube Goldberg-like congestion pricing plan scheduled to begin soon. While the ongoing congestion pricing scheme is spearheaded by the MTA, it has the full support of the DoT whose Commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, is a fanatic supporter of speed cameras, bus and bike lanes (more on that later), and apparently defers to the DoT wing that believes making it more and more difficult for drivers across the city - in order to force people into mass transit - while adding more and more unused dedicated bike lanes as part of its primary mission.

Historically, the NYC DoT is hostage to the MTA, the Port Authority of NJ & NY, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority and ultimately subservient to the Governor, with the current accidental holder of that office being a mediocrity who gives mediocrities a bad name. She recently claimed in a public statement that, "[c]ongestion pricing means cleaner air, better transit and less gridlock on New York City's streets and today's vote by the MTA Board is a critical step forward," It will result in none of the three items stated and is pure and simple a money-grab by the MTA, an utterly dysfunctional agency who lost an estimated $690 million last year alone to fare jumpers, which the MTA won't enforce against because such enforcement has a claimed "disparate impact" on minorities. 

Indeed, one fact alone demonstrates why congestion pricing is not about curbing "congestion." Under the currently proposed scheme drivers will still pay a congestion toll (albeit lower) in the wee hours overnight when Manhattan streets are effectively empty and discouraging "congestion" is a non-issue. It's about the money. End of story.


Thursday, November 16, 2023

We recently returned from two weeks in Europe, visiting our ancestral homeland of what is now Croatia. It was the first long vacation we'd had in 3+ years, and much needed, but the history of the area my family hales from reads like a fictional story of armies, empires, fiefdoms, short-lived republics and sieges. Game of Thrones had nothing on actual reality - minus the dragon, of course.

The powers that ruled over coastal regions of what is now Croatia proper are legion. From the Roman Empire, to the Venetian Republic - which gets virtually no coverage in historical works despite having existed for 1100 years from AD 697 until AD 1797 during which it held hegemony over much of the Adriatic - to the French, to the Austro-Hungarian Empire ending in 1918, then the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes, to Italian control, interspersed with short-lived, self-proclaimed republics (in Trieste, Labin and elsewhere), and consolidation post WWII as Yugoslavia (literally "Land of the South Slavs "), and ultimately to self-sovereignty post 1992 until today. 

Had the communists not taken over in the aftermatch of WWII I'm not sure my family would have emigrated to the US. Maybe they would have, since my paternal grandfather had long worked in the US proper and on cross-Atlantic ships including on the Titantic's rescue ship, the Carpathia; but maybe they wouldn't have. That's a topic for an alternative universe. But the fall of the iron curtain sealed the deal regardless.

It'd been 15 years since I last visited. And the change is stark. And not bad overall - at least on the surface. [And speaking of Game of Thrones, above, Dubrovnik was the city where they filmed much of the King's Landing scenes and watching it I could point out what was real and was layered in CGI.] 

Croatia hasn't been fully EU-ized, yet, and that's a good thing. Even though their change from the Croatian Kuna to the Euro has increased prices there isn't a mad grab for money readily evident. Maybe there is behind the scenes. Given human nature there is probably definitely a grab behind the scenes. But history matters here. 

First, Croatia hasn't been capsized by immigration the way the western EU countries have. The immigrant waves have centered west - on Italy, Germany, France and the UK. To the east and north Poland and Hungary have closed off massive immigration. And no immigrant wants to take their chances in Bosnia or Montenegro, let alone Serbia or Albania (and 10% of Albania has picked up and moved to the UK in the last few years). 

Second, Croatia's diaspora is well-connected to the homeland, though that link attenuates with each passing year. I've never lived in Croatia, but I feel a connection to it, and Istria in Croatia, given the many years of stories I've heard from my father and mother. I feel the lifes lived there and still have relatives that I know living there. 

I'm hoping we can return again soon, and given I can work from anywhere I wouldn't mind seeing if I can live there all summer next year - though I'm not sure what I'd do with my bees. I think it'd be tough stuffing the hives in the overhead luggage compartment on the plane. And, of course, I'd have to leave my firearms behind, too. 

We'll see.... 

Monday, September 19, 2022

"No plan survives contact with the enemy" - German field marshal Moltke the Elder.  

Call this morning out of the blue from a NYC real estate agent asking about "my plans" for the building in Astoria, NY, that my grandfather purchased back in the early 1950s. Built in 1928, it's an attached two story brick row-house with a number of small apartments. It's where I live as a kid for the first few years of my life; it's where I spent many a Sunday as my parents and family visited with my maternal grandparents (my father's parents live around the corner) and where me and a good friend fresh out-of-college stayed for one winter because it cut our commute to our downtown Manhattan job while my grandparents headed south to their trailer in Astor, FL. It's where my grandparents basically lived their entire adult lives after they came to the US after WWII.  Comparables on the block now go for $2.2 to $3.1MM. 

I have no idea how the agent got my name. I'm not listed on any of the deed documents to my knowledge; nor on the family trust agreement that the building's title was transferred into before my grandmother's passing. [I'll come back to this later.]

I've been thinking a good deal about leadership. Especially from our current political leaders, of both parties. And I've come to a conclusion that most of our current crop of lifetime leaders are sadly wanting because they have virtually zero idea of how chaos effects reality. Recently - and as totally an aside to this essay - I read U.S. Grant's memoir. As expected, a majority is highly focused on the Civil War. But the driving experience one gets from his recounting of warfare is chaos. Careful plans gone awry. Unexpected weather intervening. Needed supplies never showing up. Communications never received. Along the ability to react to same in an effective manner to overcome. Grant knew this first hand. This also factored into his Presidency. There's a reason the Marine's mantra is "Improvise. Adapt. Overcome" because nothing is more chaotic than the battlefield. Our leaders forget that chaos isn't confined to the battlefield.

My grandparents knew chaos post WWII firsthand. My parents saw the effects of it firsthand. I only came to appreciate chaos' awesome power late in life - and I grew up reading WWII books like Guadacanal Diary, Thirty Second Over Tokyo, etc. where nothing in the recounting of war tales worked the way they were suppose to. But I didn't have an appreciation for this when it comes to policy. Mainly because I bought into the canard that adults were in charge and could be relied upon. Which has been patently proven to be in false. And I'm very sure today's millenials and the majority of today's well-bred children have little idea of the power of "things going sideways" - playdates are planned, schedules are made, and resume internship and add-ons are checked off - but it's a major factor in how we've gotten to where we are today. Why? Because our leaders invariably set up programs that are geared to predictable lock steps: Pass law A, People will do B and Result C is what will happen. But that's not reality. It's not the way life works. And going against reality generates bad results. [I'll return to this later, too]

Bottomline is that very few in in congress or in the higher echelons of business knows what a real FUBAR day looks like or what Murphy's Law actually means in the court of the day. And for good reason: they arrange their days to avoid such scenarios. But the result is that have little understanding of what many, if not the majority, of Americans face each day. The morning where the car breaks down, the phone battery went dead, and the electric bill didn't get paid in time.... those unanticipated situations that veer the car of your day off the road and into a pole. Andromeda Strain had a scene where a small piece of piece got stuck in the teletype machine and prevented the bell from ringing so the person on duty never new a vital new message had arrived. It was classic Murphy's Law. Our putative leaders have forgotten this - or never realized it in the first place. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

So, Andrew Cuomo is out as governor. He's been an uber hack his entire career so we're very glad he's gone. Cuomo is one (of the thousand) of reasons we left NYC and NYS. His dismissiveness, arrogance, bullying, bluster, bombast, braggadocio (yes, alliteration is a thing) and open failings were there for all who were willing to see, even during the pathetic "Cuomosexual" adoration stage many of the weak-minded fell for last year. 

But his departure only highlights the corrupt nature of NY politics - the "three men in a room" control over the state and the Albany inbreeding of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours [and damned the consequences for the people of NYS]". The past two decades of NY politics has seen a string of governors forced to resign or otherwise made moot, with legislative leaders jailed, and with each new Attorney General (including Cuomo) riding rough-shod over the law. It has to stop. Spitzer. Schneiderman. Skelos. Smith. Silver. Bruno. Cuomo. Corrupt entitled losers all. 

We're no babes in the woods thinking there was a Golden Era of NY Governance. Look through NYS' history and it's replete with dirty deals, pay offs, crime and misbegotten leadership. The only saving grace is that we could always point to New Jersey and say, "You think we're bad? Yea, we are, but at least we're not as bad as New Jersey!" (And that's saying a lot as NJ had, by all measures, the most corrupt government from top to bottom of any New England state for at least the last 100 years.)

The big question is: Can NY be saved? And by saved we mean restored to a state where people and their children are willing to continue to live here, grow here and die here. New York was built into a powerhouse by location, history and leadership, but it's been coasting on reputation and inertia for a long time. Coasting doesn't work in an era of the internet and seismic social shift and we're in such an era now. 

I would always kid friends I visited around the country that when I visited them I felt like how I imagined an East German must have felt when he escaped from behind the Iron Curtain and saw the West in full focus: I couldn't imagine how much was available and at how low a price. NYC warps you. Some of the warp can be positive. But much is negative. Because you start to believe that "this is how life is. And this is how life will always and should be. Because how else could it be?"

For the record NYC isn't NYS. In many ways it isn't even in the US anymore. But before you take umbrage, think about it. In many ways NYC is a city from a different world. E.B. White celebrated it. Even while living on a farm in Maine. How much is there to celebrate now? We have family and friends still in NYC. But we would not move back after seeing what's available elsewhere. Living on bravado may be great for words on a t-shirt, but it doesn't work long term. And that's why we're the AngryNyker. Because it didn't have to be this way. And damn it, as a native born New Yorker, it shouldn't have been.

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

Day one. The amount of glee, fist pumping and self-congratulatory semaphoring on display yesterday was interesting to watch, but dismaying to behold, as if somehow an empty inauguration in an armed camp was worthy of unbridled celebration. President Biden (a/k/a "The Husk") bleated out "unity" many times yesterday, but in essence his speech in its entirety called in reality for "conformity" not unity. The failing and overreach of the Democrats (a party to which we once belonged) have been covered to exhaustion elsewhere, but Biden - surrounded by his Obama-era retreads - instantly demonstrated what his "unity" would mean: eleven Executive Orders signed within minutes reversing President Trumps executive orders likewise reversing Obama's. Tit-for-tat is the modus operandi going forward, 

And so Biden, with his empty lofty words, his empty Washington, D.C., and his empty ideas will over the next four years give proof to H.L. Mencken's famous quip: "Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

We're going to get it good and hard.

Thursday, July 09, 2020
If I call a watermelon a cucumber can I legitimately then say, "no, no, I didn't really MEAN watermelon. I meant any green skinned fruit/vegetable. How could you not KNOW that?" 

That's the thing about vocabulary. Words actually MEAN something. We even create entire books with nothing but words in them recounting what the word means. We call them dictionaries.  But in recent years various segments have gone full 1984 Newspeak in redefining and backdefining terms, applying words where they don't fit and alway, always looking for "dog whistles" to call out.  The thing about dog whistles ... if you can hear them YOU are the dog.

Such convolution has its all too predictable end result in the BLM movement (where if you dare to say ALL lives matter or even ALL black lives matter you're somehow an irredeemable racist on par with the vilest pedofile). And so now we come the squirrelly Defund the Police crowd, who a few minutes after their mantra went up the flag-pole starting saying "but, but we didn't mean DEFUND, we meant take that money and give it to social workers and education who will take over for the police in areas."

Now look, I'm no fan of militarized police or a whole range of practices in law enforcement ranging from absolute immunity to no-knock warrants to prosecutors who overcharge (I believe many power-mad prosecutors should be disbarred for their misconduct, but they virtually never, ever are... that's a topic for another post), but to think we can have a calm, peaceful, civil society with millions  in close proximity without a duly empowered element that keeps order is foolish. Also overlookeded is that the police exist as much to safeguard the "accused" as they exist collectively to protect the populace. The alternative is a descent into rough mob justice, lack of due-process and ultimately a vigalente-vendetta environment.

Which brings me back to the start of this: the result of poor word choice ends in a breakdown of communication.  As a kid I remember reading the story in Genesis about the Tower of Babel and thinking at the time - "Wow, that was messed up." But there was an immediate consequence to being unable to communicate - chaos. The nomenclature today pats themselves on the back for their clever burpings, but as in the biblical tale the only end result will be chaos and a dispersal to the four winds of our civilization.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020
Well 2020... what can you say? I'm sure we'd all like a do-over to reset the clock back to 1/1/2020.  But there's been so much to be "angry" about ongoing in NY it's hard to know where to start... so we'll start with something outside of NY.  Namely, the growing rise to "ban" people from social media for hate speech.

The other day Reddit banned President Trump on the basis of violating their ToS prohibiting "hate speech".  We disagree completely. Or rather we agree 100% - so long as we get to decide what hate speech is... :)  That's the general position, really, isn't it?  I'm in favor... so long as I can control it.

I think there’s justifiable reason for concern.  It used to be that preferred counter to speech one didn’t like was to encourage more speech in the “marketplace of ideas” but social media has turned the marketplace of ideas into an MMC fighting octagon where two men enter and one man leaves.

We understand such entities as private operations can set their own policies, but “hate speech” has no Constitutional foundation. There is no such thing under First Amendment jurisprudence and the govt can’t ban “hate speech” -

As a thought experiment if some other social media outlet said they were going to ban people who posted – purely for argument’s sake – Black Lives Matter-related posts (on the hook that such groups have been involved in toppling statutes) because it fell under their specific definition of “hate speech” what would the reaction be and who is in a position to say their definition of hate speech is wrong, regardless of whether one agreed or not?

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Many are urging us to take the onramp.

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